At The Natural Nutritionist we take both a holistic and preventative approach to health and undertake a range of functional tests in order to provide an accurate and definitive explanation to your health concerns and treat accordingly. Functional tests used most regularly in clinic include hormone profiling, microbiome analysis and of course blood testing. Today we are discussing the importance of annual blood testing and essential markers that you should know about and get tested for.
Although a blood test can seem daunting and a little inconvenient for some, the importance of blood testing can’t be overstated. Your blood is a key factor in analysing your current state of health as it provides us with useful information and clues to how your body is functioning, uncovering any clinical, or subclinical inadequacies that may be present. From a single blood test, nutrient deficiencies can be corrected and future chronic illness and disease can be prevented. Sounds pretty crucial right?
Not only is your blood the transport mechanism for a range of nutrients and immune cells, it is also the communication medium for different organs and hormones within the body, this allows us to direct our attention to the cause and undertake further testing where it is most necessary. Furthermore, consecutive blood test evaluation allows us to track your progress and review the effect certain treatment has had on your overall health. For example we can assess if the dietary and lifestyle changes we have provided has improved your blood lipid profile and future cardiovascular disease risk.
RECOMMENDED BLOOD TEST MEASURES
Complete Blood Count (CBC): an important test to have done if there’s fatigue, reoccurring illness & infection or a history of B12, iron or folate deficiency. This test measures several components and features of your blood and allows us to diagnose any nutrient deficiencies, assess the quality of blood cells and directs our attention to any infections that may be present within the body that calls for further evaluation. CBC measures include red blood cell count, white blood cell count, haemoglobin, hematocrit, MCV, platelets, just to name a few.
Chemistry/Metabolic Panel: An important test for anyone carrying extra weight, needing to lose weight, wanting to correct a hormone imbalance, with a high training load or on medications. This test evaluates organ functioning, including liver enzymes which can detect liver inflammation, kidney function, electrolyte balance and also monitors certain health conditions and the effects of medications. Measures include, but are not limited to, glucose, uric acid, creatinine, sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, total protein and albumin.
Lipid Panel: As the name suggests this test allows us to asses your cholesterol level and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. Measures include total cholesterol, triglycerides, high density lipoprotein (HDL), low density lipoprotein (LDL), and very low density lipoprotein (VLDL). It is not as simple as good cholesterol vs bad cholesterol and the use of statins is severely overprescribed in this day and age. From a blood lipid panel, high total LDL cholesterol is not the most important factor, but rather it’s the size of the LDL particles that counts. At The Natural Nutritionist, we investigate your LDL particle size and asses your risk using the most up to date research. If you have a family history of CVD or have been advised by your Doctor to start treating CVD this test is a necessity.You can read more on our view on statins here.
Iron Studies: this form of testing allows us to measure the amount of iron carried in the blood and stored in the body tissues. It’s a very effective way to detect iron deficiency, which is common in menstruating women, pregnant women, female athletes, vegetarians & vegans and those with IBD or Coeliac Disease. This test can also provide clues to nutrient absorption ability and the state of your gastrointestinal tract. Measures include serum iron, transferrin saturation, transferrin and ferritin. This test should always be done alongside C-reactive protein (CRP).
ADDITIONAL BLOOD TEST MEASURES
Hormones: hormone testing allows us to determine the levels of various hormones in the body. This includes reproductive hormones (e.g. oestrogen and progesterone), thyroid hormones (e.g. thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH, Free T3, Free T4, Reverse T3,) and adrenal hormones (e.g. cortisol and DHEA). This is particularly relevant for women who experience an inability to lose weight, mood swings, constipation, fatigue, hair loss and chronic stress.
Vitamin D: essential for bone health, energy production, metabolic health and cardiovascular function. Such an important vitamin yet one of the most common deficiencies we see in clinic. If you spend much of the day inside, spend much of your time outside protecting your skin from the sun and/or if you don’t eat fish or dairy then you are at risk of low vitamin D and should seek testing.
B12/Folate: these are required to support energy, maintain healthy nerve cells, manufacture red blood cells and are required for the replication of DNA (genetic makeup). Levels can be affected by diets low in natural sources of B12 and folate including red meat, fish and eggs as well as low stomach acid. It’s important to have these tested if you’re low in energy, looking to conceive, have a history of using stomach acid suppressing medications or eat a largely plant-based diet.
Zinc/Copper: an important test for those with adult acne, thyroid challenges or signs of compromised immune function. Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a key role in immune function. Copper is an important mineral, however in excess, copper can interfere with nutrient absorption and become toxic to the body. These markers need to be in the correct ratio for optimal health.
Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c)/Insulin: we predominately use these measures to indicate carbohydrate (CHO) tolerance and Type II Diabetes risk. This test is a must if you have poor blood sugar control, are overweight or obese or have a family history of Type II Diabetes.
Homocysteine/Histamine: these are inflammatory markers, assess CVD risk and are both MTHFR dependent. We also recommend having these tested alongside B12 as homocysteine serves as a functional marker of B12 status.
MTHFR: to detect any gene mutations that may be responsible for the individuals ability to eliminate toxins and heavy metals from the body, convert homocysteine to methionine in order to utilise antioxidants and deal with stress (read more on MTHFR here).
As you can see from the above, blood tests are crucial method to investigate your overall health and wellbeing and allow us to tailor your nutrient needs and supplement protocol accordingly.
If you haven’t had a blood test in the last 12 months, do yourself a favour and book in for a blood test. Tests covered by Medicare (which is most of the above in Australia) can be arranged via your General Practitioner. Simply advise them what you’d like to have tested and why, so they can provide you with a pathology referral. Once your blood sample has been drawn the results will be sent to your Dr who will in turn share them with you.
If you’d like our support in understanding your blood and how this influences your dietary needs then please book in for a 15 minute complimentary consultation today. We’ll gladly talk with you about what tests to request via your Dr, write them a letter and then tailor your nutrition plan with the results in mind.
Article written by Nutritionist, Elly McLean. Learn more about Elly here.